Volkswagen 'Considering' Replacing CEO Matthias Mller With the Diess Man

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Volkswagen Group is thinking about replacing chief executive Matthias Müller with the head of its VW brand, Herbert Diess. According to inside sources, however, the decision already appears to have been made. When questioned about staffing changes, the company said it was “considering evolving the leadership structure” as it relates to the the management board — which could extend to a change in CEOs.

An automaker typically wouldn’t even hint at such a thing if it wasn’t already a done deal. That means Müller is almost guaranteed to be moving on soon, bringing his extended history with the company to a close. A true company man, Matthias completed a tooling apprenticeship at Audi in 1977, before a reprieve where he left to study computer engineering. Returning to the brand in 1984, Müller moved up the ranks swiftly — eventually becoming CEO of Porsche in 2010 and replacing Martin Winterkorn as Volkswagen AG’s CEO during 2015’s diesel emissions scandal.

While his contract is good until 2020, the company could still press for an early retirement. In fact, some reports even have Müller removed from his post already.

Müller’s ties to Winterkorn haven’t done him any favors; as a result, he has been under investigation in Germany over speculation that he withheld important information relating to the company’s emissions scandal from investors. A separate investigation is looking into potential market manipulation. Those probes haven’t turned up anything solid, but offloading Müller could be an easy way for VW to avoid further executive scrutiny. The current VW brand boss, Herbert Diess, is the most likely candidate for replacement.

According to German outlet Handelsblatt, ditching Müller would give Volkswagen the fresh start it needs. Diess is not the only candidate under consideration, though. Volkswagen Truck & Bus boss Andreas Renschler is also in the running, but Diess’ higher profile and VW’s current drive to reestablish itself as a more competitive mass-market brand gives him the edge.

Apparently, the Porsche and Piech families, which control much of the action behind the scenes at VW Group, were in agreement to replace Müller. Some of them are unlikely to be thrilled about having to replace him so soon after losing Winterkorn. Even less excited will be Volkswagen’s labor leaders, who have been at odds with Diess over job cuts since 2016.

Volkswagen issued an official statement on the issue that lacks the kind of clarity one would hope for in a corporate release, especially one relating to management changes. It references numerous considerations in regard to shifting VW’s businesses management structure, mentions personnel changes to the board, but never dives into specifics.

“On the basis of these considerations, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft is currently in discussions with certain members of the Supervisory Board and of the Board of Management,” stated the release. “Mr. Matthias Müller showed his general willingness to contribute to the changes. It is currently open whether the considerations and discussions will lead to a further development of the management structure or to personnel changes in the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft.”

The vagueness is overwhelming. We hoping for something more concrete soon.

[Image: Volkswagen AG]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Tstag Tstag on Apr 10, 2018

    Not a shock. VW are spending big on electric cars when everyone else is carefully dipping their toe in the water. I suspect the people who control VW would much rather see the company grow through acquisitions. FCA May become a prime target for them.

  • TW5 TW5 on Apr 10, 2018

    Nice reading between the lines. As you point out, Müller's name is turning up consistently in investigations, lawsuits, and minor public/political scandals. His rolodex of friends isn't great, either. VW needs to hire someone unassuming and non-threatening (publicly), and above media criticism. In other words, they need a Mary Barra. Not sure Diess or Renschler fit the bill. VW might throw a curveball if they can find someone.

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  • Akear This is similar to what lazy GM and Ford used to do.
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